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Teen Perspective, a column on Muslim teen issues
January 2003

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" - Patrick Henry, 1775

by Shezena T. Mohammed

Palestinian refugee women and children
Palestinian Women and Children Returning to Shuneh Refugee Camp

What would you do?

What would you do if someone came to your house in the middle of the night with a bulldozer and started tearing down your house while you and your children slept inside? What would you do if the fields that have taken generations for your family to grow were torn down in a single night to pave a road? As Americans, it is unimaginable that we would stand by and allow others to take away and destroy what we have worked so hard to make. Yet the American public is dismayed when people who are being victimized in this manner defend themselves and fight for what is theirs.

I have always heard that the problem that most Americans have with the Palestinians is that they can't understand suicide bombers. They cannot understand why someone would want to kill himself to hurt others. But what would you do if you had nothing to defend yourself with? What if there was no way for you to fight back; what would you do? Could you stand by and watch your life being torn away before your very eyes and do nothing about it?

We are taught in Islam that we should want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves. I am very comfortable sitting here writing this column in a warm house with a computer in front of me and perhaps my only annoyance being my little sister trying to find toys underneath my soft chair. And I am sure most people reading this column are not living in a refugee camp where there is not enough food to eat. Most of you are in relatively safe and secure environments.

Of course any one of us would want the same security and comfort for our brothers and sisters in Palestine, but how can we be sincere if we don't even want them to protect themselves and their families in the only way they can?

It is very well known that killing innocent people is completely against Islam and a very grave sin. It says in the Qur'an who ever kills a person for unjust reasons is like he killed all of humanity. Each Israeli killed who is not a combatant is unjustly killed. Even though the Israeli civilians are not as innocent as it would seem because each one who lives there knows the blood that was spilt to steal that land, and in Islam that is reason enough for a war, there are still women and children there and by what our Prophet Muhammad SAW told us, they must not be killed during this war.

I believe in the right of the Palestinians to fight to get back what is theirs and to stop the genocide of their people. What more noble Muslim than one who is willing to give his life in the name of Islam. I cannot support them though, when they target or even know that there might be the possiblility of women and children in harm's way. It might seem in this matter that there is a fine line between a martyr and a murderer, but there isn't. Women and children are not to be harmed, period.

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"

It is not a custom of Muslims to sit silently while they are being oppressed and killed, even if we have to die doing something about it. I find it unbearable to think that they must go to such limits in order to try to stop the destruction of their lives. And even more unbearable to think that if this is the only way they have to defend themselves, and that we would criticize them for it.

No one wants his brother to die and that is what each of those young men are to us, our brothers, but I can't help but wonder what else a dying race could possibly do. Suffer silently and hope their oppressors will change? Passive tolerance of oppression is not our way in Islam. "Give me liberty or give me death." Somehow when uttered by Patrick Henry, one of America's founding fathers, it is seen as a heroic statement, but when said by the Palestinian people that's a whole different story it seems. But that has to be what the Palestinian people live by. If not, then they continue to be oppressed.

What you can do

Considering what an important issue this is and how much suffering the Palestinians are going through everyday, I can't help but wonder what the Muslims in the US and around the world are doing about it. The change found in the sofa cushions doesn't count and unless we start doing something serious about it, nothing will change. If the situation were solved then these men would not have to go to such great and unbearable lengths to protect themselves. The Messenger of Allah (saws) said that if you see something wrong, you should correct it with your hand. If you are not able to, then speak out against it. If you cannot, then feel that it is wrong in your heart. But really though, what can we do? Well, I'll remind you...

  • Exert influence: One of the most important things we can do to try to change the situation over there is to write to the people who can change it. It is true that a non-diplomatic individual may not be able to convince the president or prime minister or whatever leader to stop aiding Israel but thousands of us may. It is never safe to assume that someone else wrote to his representatives so we don't have to. It doesn't matter if someone else already did, it matters if you did or not.
  • Send money: Another thing we can do is give money to the Palestinians for aid such as food, water, and medical supplies. Anything can help. Even if we don't have anything, we can try to raise money by doing different things and holding different kinds of events. We must always be sure that there is a donation box for our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world in our mosques and give regularly. And again, it doesn't matter if someone else gave money; it matters if you did because on the Day of Judgment, Allah SWT is not going to ask if you saw someone give enough for you as well as them, He SWT is going to ask if you did.
  • Hold rallies: A great way to support Palestine is going to rallies. I don't think there is anything more noticeable to diplomatic leaders than 10,000 people chanting outside their offices. This is something that is not used enough. Single mosques by themselves can hold rallies. There does not have to be a huge mass of people available in order to hold a rally.
  • Duaa: And probably the most important thing each of us can do for our brothers and sisters in Islam, is to make duaa for them. It doesn't cost anything and will only take a few seconds of your time and it is definitely something that everyone can do. Allah SWT gave us everything and can take it away and He alone will resolve this situation. And know that each person who caused our brothers and sisters in Islam any harm will be punished. Allah SWT is fair in retributions.

Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsaa
The Dome of the Rock masjid, with Al-Aqsaa behind it in the distance.

A message to the youth

The issues that play themselves out now will create the world that we, the youth, will have to deal with. The world that they are paving right now is the world that you and me are going to have to live in. There is no getting out. This is the world that every teenager, child, and baby is going to have to deal with when it becomes our turn to lead the world. What happens now has very much to do with us. Whatever happens, we will have to deal with the repercussions, that's just the way it is. If conditions worsen, the world will be worse not only for them, but for us too. We may not be able to stop what is going on in Palestine with our hands, but I believe we are capable of changing it by speaking out against it and if we do as our Prophet SAW commanded us to, we can change this crisis and make a better world for them and us right now.

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